Hillsboro, Va., August 30, 2019—The Town of Hillsboro has responded to a press release issued by the Clark County Public Information Office on August 29 to local media to correct several inaccurate and false statements. According to Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance, the release was issued a day after Clarke County officials attended a first-responder meeting hosted by the Town. “I am dismayed with the statements from Clarke County, as they are clear misrepresentations of the facts, clearly presented to the group,” Vance said.
The Town of Hillsboro is currently working with VDOT to analyze options for revising the Maintenance of Traffic plan (MOT) for the Town’s Route 9 Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Project (ReThink9) that could reduce the project duration from 31-36 months to 11 months. “Close collaboration on a data- driven analysis is underway and no determination has yet been made,” Vance said. “The purpose of the meeting was to solicit feedback from our first responders as a data point for the Town and VDOT in their analysis of MOT options.”
The Town of Hillsboro specifically stated at the meeting where Clarke County officials and law enforcement were present that Route 612 in Clarke County would never, under any plan, be part of any signed detour route. Mayor Vance stated, “We will work directly with the Clarke County Sheriff to take measures to discourage non-local traffic on the route.”
Potential detour routes for the project are anticipated to be regional and local. Many of the 16,000 daily trips on Route 9 originating in West Virginia or Maryland are expected, in the current VDOT-approved 31 to 36-month project MOT, to travel on U.S. 340 (eastbound and westbound) to reach Virginia Route 7. Local traffic is anticipated to use a route around Hillsboro. The Town’s proposed MOT revision reduces the duration of the project to 11 months and provides clearly defined, safe and viable detours regionally and locally.
The Hillsboro project went through its design public hearing process in 2012, during which neighboring jurisdictions were notified as part of the VDOT public hearing process. “This project has had wide exposure within and across VDOT districts for years, as well as wide media exposure,” Vance said. He added that, following VDOT protocol, public information meetings and “pardon our dust” meetings are held once a contract has been awarded for construction.
Vance said Hillsboro has a robust public outreach plan to reach all entities in the tri-state area that will go into full implementation once VDOT completes its analysis and makes their MOT decision. Nevertheless, the Town welcomed Clarke County officials to sit in on the Town hosted first-responder meeting and has kept both Maryland and West Virginia transportation officials informed about the project. Vance noted both have offered to assist in the communication when a VDOT decision has been made.
The Town of Hillsboro held a meeting for Loudoun County first responders in spring 2019 to review the project plans and address issues related to public safety and traffic control. With recent developments and potential revision of the project MOT, the Town reconvened the first responders to gather law enforcement, fire and emergency response officials’ input on the impact of proposed revisions, including closure. Mayor Vance stated, “The insights and inputs of the first responders are key to our decisions regarding the MOT. The consensus of first responders was that in either MOT scenario, similar volumes of traffic will divert from Route 9 and find alternate routes—and that the longer the duration of the project, the greater the risk to public safety.”
“At the first responder meeting,” Vance noted, “State Trooper Blankenship indicated he will work with Clarke County and assign more troopers as needed during the construction to address any public safety issues. Safe, clearly marked detours as well as signage that clearly marks local travel only will aid in traffic management and address public safety issues. The option of alternating lane closure for 31 to 36 months is dangerous to workers and motorists and increases risks exponentially.”
Virginia Route 7 is a four-lane highway with capacity to accept a significant increase in motorist and truck travel, as is most of U.S 340. A large portion of the commuters using Route 9 will use Route 340 to reach Route 7. The project engineers are proposing a variety of traffic measures to guide motorists safely and to recalibrate signals as necessary to move traffic through this corridor safely.
Likewise, Route 9 will serve as a detour route when 2021 projects on Route 340, including lane expansion construction and a complete closure near Hillsboro. Mayor Vance noted, “We live in a tri- state area and all of our roads are part of a larger network, each of our communities can help relieve congestion burden when we work together. All of our communities and all our motorists will benefit greatly from our ability to deliver road improvements in the shortest time frame possible.”